All you need to know about the Tea Ceremony Set

During the Japanese green tea ceremony, it’s important to make sure you have the right Tea Ceremony Set.

In the first section of this article, we'll be covering all the accessories of the traditional tea ceremony with detailed explanation and pictures.

In the second part, we'll explain you step by step how to use the Japanese Tea Ceremony Set. Without further saying, let's brew! 🍵🍃

 

Definition of the tea ceremony set 

The Japanese tea ceremony is a traditional form of tea ceremony and a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of ceremonial matcha

Thus, in this article, we'll be covering the Japanese tea ceremony set which is the complete collection of utensils used in the preparation and serving of tea. 

 

What does a traditional tea ceremony set consist of?

Chaire

The chaire is another important part of the japanese tea ceremony set. This is the tea caddy used to hold the matcha powder for special tea ceremonies. It is made out of a thick clay and it has a seal on top, almost like a cork. This is not to be confused with the natusume, which is another type of tea caddy made with a lacquer material.

The difference is that the chaire is used for Japanese tea ceremonies that involve koicha or thick tea. This is a special matcha paste made with double the amount of powder and half the amount of water. This is only meant for special occasions, and you need to use an extremely smooth matcha like the matcha washimine to make koicha, otherwise it will be very bitter.

 


Chakin

The chakin is one of two tea towels used in the tea ceremony set. This towel is okay to get wet, which distinguishes it from the Fukusa, which is meant to remain dry. The chakin is made from hemp and is specifically used to clean off the chawan or matcha bowl, which is something we will discuss later.

This purification process emphasizes one of the core principles of the tea ceremony, purity, which makes the chakin an even more important part of the Japanese tea ceremony set.

 


Chasen

The chasen or matcha whisk is the most recognizable utensil in the tea ceremony set. This is the best tool when it comes to whisking up the perfect bowl of matcha tea.

It is made out of a single piece of bamboo and it has 100 small bristles that move through the water to inject air into the tea. This creates a nice foam on top of the matcha, which can give the tea a smoother and creamier taste and consistency.

 

 

Chashaku

The chashaku is specifically designed to be the best spoon for scooping matcha powder and it is a key addition to the tea ceremony set. The design may seem simple, but it has a few key features that make it easier to prepare matcha tea.

First of all, it has a more vertical design, compared to the horizontal design of most spoons. This makes it easier to scoop out of narrower containers like a matcha tin. The second is that the chashaku is a great measurement tool. All you need is two heaping spoonfuls from the chashaku and you will have the perfect amount of powder to create your matcha tea.

 

 

Chawan

After the chasen, the chawan matcha bowl is probably the second most famous utensil in the Japanese tea ceremony set. This may look like an ordinary bowl at first, but it has a few key features that help to improve the tea ceremony. First, it has steeper sides, making it easier to whisk the matcha. It also is made out of a thick clay, which conveys a sense of importance to the tea and it also helps to keep the matcha tea warm as long as it is preheated. 


Finally, it usually has a beautiful design on the side of it, which is meant to be turned towards the guest to demonstrate one of the core principles of the Japanese tea ceremony. One of the core principles of the Japanese tea ceremony is respect, and this is demonstrated by the guest allowing others to look at the most beautiful side of the tea bowl as they drink the matcha tea.



Fukusa

The fukusa is the second towel used in the Japanese tea ceremony set. Unlike the Chakin, this towel is meant to remain dry, and it is used to purify the objects used in the tea ceremony like the natsume and the chashaku.

This cloth is made out of silk and is kept around the waist of the tea master and is unfolded before the tea ceremony. After the tea master is done using the fukusa, she will fold it back up the same way, and place it back on her belt.

 


Furo

This is the portable heater for the iron pot used in the Japanese tea ceremony set. This is mostly used in the spring and summer, and it is usually made out of bronze.

The Furo has a small opening inside of it to let air in, and keep the coal inside burning well. This allows it to heat the water for the tea ceremony and be easily transported.

 

 

Futaoki

The Futaoki is a seldom known component of the tea ceremony set. At the start of the Japanese tea ceremony, the futa or lid to the kettle is placed on the kama or iron pot in order to keep the water warm.

Then the hishakuor bamboo ladle is positioned on the futaoki until the host scoops out the first cup of water from the iron pot. Next, the tea master will place the kettle lid on the futaoki. Most futaoki are made out of bamboo with a small nodule in the middle but it is not uncommon to find one made out of either ceramic or porcelain.

 


Hishaku

The hishaku is another one of the more famous utensils in the Japanese tea ceremony set. This is the bamboo ladle used to scoop the water from the iron pot into the matcha bowl.

The tea master will use approximately half a hishaku full of water in order to prepare the matcha tea. A Hishaku can also be used outside of temples as part of the purification ritual, but these tend to be larger.

 

 

Kama

The kama is the iron pot used to heat the water, and therefore it is a very important part of the Japanese tea ceremony set. When you walk into the tea room, you may notice a square carved out in the tatami mats. This is where the kama or iron pot resides, and it is lined with a bronze, heat proof material that also contains hot colas at the bottom. These hot coals serve as a way to keep the water hot throughout the tea ceremony.

 


Kaishi

The kaishi is the paper napkin used to serve the sweets and can be considered part of the tea ceremony set. During the tea ceremony, the guest is usually presented with some type of sweet or “wagashi” to enjoy with their tea. This serves two purposes, the first is to offer a special gift to the guest to strengthen their bond with the host. The second is to set the theme of the tea ceremony. Wagashi can be artistically created to convey different ideas or different seasons, so it really helps to set the tone of the entire tea ceremony.

The kaishi is usually kept by the tea master ready to be used, but it can also be kept by the guest. These paper napkins are very small and easy to tuck away.

 

 

Kensui

The kensui is the waste water bowl used in the tea ceremony. This may not seem like an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony set, but it does play an important role. After the tea master preheats the tea bowl and tea whisk, she will need to discard the water. Having the kensui around makes it easy to pour this water out without having to leave the tea room and interrupt the flow of the tea ceremony.


Kobukusa

This is a thicker silk cloth used to present the matcha bowl. This is not use to clean the tea utensils, but rather to protect tea utensils. Compared to the Fukusa, the Kobukusa is made from a much thicker material and often contains more decorative patterns. It is placed on the tatami mat and then the chawan is place on top of it for the guest. This is used primarily for special tea ceremonies where koicha is drunk.

 

Mizusashi

The Mizusashi is another component of the tea ceremony set you may not notice over the course of a regular tea ceremony. This container is filled with cold water and it is used to refill the Kama or iron pot in between tea ceremonies. It is normally made out of clay and it has a lid on top. This is an important tool when it comes to setting the stage of the tea ceremony, although you may not see it being used during the actually ceremony.

 

Natsume

The natsume is another type of tea caddy. This is part of the tea ceremony set for preparing “usucha” or thin tea. As we mentioned before, if koicha or thick tea is being prepared during a special tea ceremony, the chaire will be used instead. This is usually made out of lacquered or unprocessed wood and it gets the name because it resembles the jujube fruit which is called natsume in Japanese. 

 

Sensu

The sensu is perhaps the least used utensil of the tea ceremony set. In fact, the sensu isn’t really used at all!

This folding fan is kept in front of the guest completely folded up as a polite gesture during the tea ceremony. This is something you will rarely find still being done, but it still is used.

 

 

Shifuku

This is the protective cloth pouch used for the chaire. The cloth is usually covered in a decorative pattern and it has a drawstring to it. The chaire is placed inside the shifuku pouch and it is closed up to keep the chaire protected until it is ready to be used. Although this is technically a container for another piece of the tea ceremony set, a lot of work goes into making it and it is a work of art in its own right!


Ro

We mentioned before in the spring and summer the furo is used in the tea ceremony set, but in the fall and winter the Ro or sunken hearth is used. This is the square hearth carved into the tatami mat where the kama is submerged and kept hot with burning coals.


Yakan

The yakan is the water pitcher that is used to replenish the mizusashi at the end of the tea ceremony. This may seem like there are too many containers being used just for water, but each one is an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony set.


Japanese Tea Ceremony Set use step by step

Now that we have covered all the tools in the Japanese tea ceremony set, let’s briefly discuss how to use them. We’ll take you through the tea ceremony step by step in this short guide. 


Step 1: Invitations

Before a formal tea ceremony can begin, the host must first send out invitations to their guests. This is done several weeks prior to the tea ceremony and it is very important that the invitations used are aesthetically pleasing. Even before the tea ceremony set is brought out, the tea ceremony has begun and the aesthetic is important.


Step 2: Preparing the Ceremony Room

Before the guests arrive to the tea ceremony, the tea ceremony room needs to be prepared. There are 3 stages to this. First, the tea ceremony room needs to be cleaned. The tea ceremony is meant to be very sparsely decorated, and nothing should be around to distract the guests from the ceremony itself.


After the tea ceremony room has been cleaned, it is time to set the theme of the tea ceremony. Even though the tea ceremony room has very few decorations, the theme of the ceremony can be set with the flower arrangement and the scroll hanging on the wall of the room. This scroll will usually display a quick phrase or poem to set the tone of the ceremony.


Finally, part of the Japanese tea ceremony set can be brought out. Not all of the utensils will be displayed, just the basic things like the kensui, kama and mizusashi. These are the heaviest objects in the tea ceremony set. The rest of the objects can be brought in later, once the guests have arrived.


Step 3: Receiving the Guests

Guests that have been invited to the tea ceremony will typically wait outside in the garden until they are formally invited into the tea room by the host. The garden that surrounds the tea ceremony room is meant to be an extension of nature itself. This represents one of the core principles of the Japanese tea ceremony, harmony, in this case harmony with the natural world.


After being announced, the guests will remove their shoes and begin to enter the tea room. They will then proceed to wash their hands as a symbol of purifying themselves. Historically, guests enter the tea room through a small door. This forces each guest of the tea ceremony to bow before they enter the room, regardless of their status. Inside the tea room, all guests are equal regardless of their status outside the tea room.


Once the guests are inside the tea room, they will sit down. The host will then acknowledge each guest. If Japanese tea ceremony sweets or wagashi are being offered, they will be served to each guest during this time. Both the host and the guest will bow to each other during this exchange.


Step 4: Cleansing of the Tools

As mentioned before, a key principle of the Japanese tea ceremony is purity. This is where the tea ceremony set comes into play. The tea master will take out the Fukusa and wipe down the chashaku, hishaku and natsume. This is done in front of the guests to demonstrate the purity of the tea ceremony set.


Step 5: Preparing Thin Matcha Tea

To prepare the thin matcha tea, the host will first scoop hot water out of the kama with the hishaku and pour it into the chawan. This is done to preheat the tea bowl, so it is able to keep the matcha tea warm during the tea ceremony.

Next, the tea master will soak the chasen or bamboo matcha whisk in the water to prepare it. The bristles on this matcha whisk are very fragile, particularly when they are dry and brittle. By soaking the whisk beforehand, the tea master is making the tea whisk more pliable and less likely to break. The chasen and the chawan are the only objects in the tea ceremony set that need to be preheated like this.

After the Japanese tea ceremony set has been preheated, the water is cast aside in the kensui and then the chawan is cleaned off using the Chakin. The bowl is then set down and the tea master will soon open up the natusume.

The tea master will take the chashaku and draw two scoops of matcha powder out of the chashaku and place it into the chawan. Normally, we would recommend running the powder through a sifter before putting it into a bowl, but in the case of the tea ceremony, the powder is often pre sifted into the natsume to avoid the clumps.

Them a scoop of hot water is drawn from the kama with the hishaku and poured into the tea bowl. The tea is then whisked up with the chasen or bamboo matcha whisk. First, the tea master will scrape off the sides of the tea bowl, and then she will begin rapid zigzag motions with the chasen, using mostly her wrist, until a light green foam appears on the top of the matcha. 

The tea master will then withdraw the whisk from the matcha bowl and then turn the bowl so that the design side faces the guest. The tea is then presented to the guest and most of the utensils in the Japanese tea ceremony set have now been used.


Step 6: Preparing Thick Matcha Tea

Thick tea or koicha is prepared during the tea ceremony, but only for special occasions. To make this tea, the tea ceremony set is used in a similar way, but the key difference is a different amount of powder is used. To make this, the host will use twice the amount of powder and half the amount of water. This makes the tea very flavorful and very thick.

Because the tea is so thick and it is passed from guest to guest, each guest will use their kaishi or paper napkin to clean off the bowl before passing it to the next guest.


Step 7: Cleansing of the Tools

After the tea ceremony set has been used, all the utensils are cleaned up by the host. This of course once again demonstrates the concept of purity. At this point, the host and the guests can take the opportunity to observe the craftsmanship of the tea utensils and appreciate the quality of the tea ceremony set


Step 8: Guests Depart

After all the steps have been followed, all the guests are now allowed to depart. The host will bow to each guest individually as they leave. The formal tea ceremony can take up to 4 hours, as a meal is typically served during it. The length of time depends on the season and the type of meal served.


Where can I get a tea ceremony set?

If you are looking for a tea ceremony set, you can find all the most important tools on our website. Just check out our matcha tea sets section to browse different types of matcha bowls, matcha tea, matcha whisks and matcha spoons. You should be able to get everything you need to begin your journey into the world of the tea ceremony. Maybe you’ll even host your own someday!

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